Seven Things People With Metastatic Breast Cancer Want You to Know About Joining a Clinical Trial

by Jen Uscher 

By joining a clinical trial, you can potentially get access to a new, experimental treatment for metastatic breast cancer that isn’t otherwise available. You might even be among the first people to benefit from a drug that is more effective or has fewer side effects than standard treatments. 

But the uncertainty about how a clinical trial will turn out can make it hard to decide if you want to participate. You may be concerned that the experimental treatment has unknown side effects or carries other risks, and wondering if you’ll be able to handle the more frequent visits to the doctor and extra medical tests that trials typically require. 

As with any other treatment decision, you and your doctor need to weigh the possible benefits of enrolling in a clinical trial against the risks. It may also help to talk with other people with metastatic disease who joined clinical trials about their experiences. 

We asked members of the Community at who have participated in clinical trials for metastatic breast cancer to share the things they think are most useful to know before you enroll. Here are their insights: 

1. In some clinical trials, you could wind up receiving a standard FDA-approved treatment for metastatic breast cancer plus a placebo (sugar pill). 

If the trial that you join is a randomized, placebo-controlled trial for metastatic breast cancer, you’ll be randomly assigned to either a test group receiving an experimental medication or a control group receiving the treatment that is the current standard of care plus a placebo. This helps the researchers determine whether the new medication is safer and/or more effective than the standard treatment. 

In a double-blinded trial, neither the researchers nor the participants know who is getting the experimental medication and who is getting the standard treatment plus a placebo. Double-blinding helps prevent the resea…

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